A Washington Times editorial published on September 9 misleadingly claimed that under President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education program, "Pennsylvania and other states and local school districts failed to spend $5.7 billion in federal school money in fiscal 2000, 2001 and 2002."
Federal regulations regarding the appropriation of money for education make the appearance of overfunding nearly inevitable, but much of the $5.7 billion that the Times claims was returned to the U.S. Treasury Department may yet be spent. As Media Matters for America noted on August 10, after FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly made a similar misleading claim about education funding, the law gives states at least 27 months to spend federal education money. According to a July 12 press release from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democratic staff, states spent 99.5 percent of federal K-12 education money allocated for fiscal year 1998, the most recent year for which all relevant deadlines for state expenditures of federal education money have passed.
Moreover, the Times' assertion that the apparent surplus "should debunk the myth that No Child Left Behind is an unfunded federal mandate" ignores the budgetary shortfalls that have occurred as a result of the legislation. As MMFA has noted, a House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democratic staff report shows that the president's budget for 2005 provides $9.4 billion less for NCLB programs than was authorized for them by Congress. According to the report, this would be the "3rd straight time" that NCLB programs would be denied "promised resources" since the act was signed into law two years ago. The National Education Association estimates that fully funding the burdens placed on local educational agencies by NCLB would cost $18 billion more than Congress appropriated in fiscal year 2004.